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South African Humor

  • By: Sandra Swart
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

There is a very small body of historical writing on humor specific to South Africa, within a growing corpus of literature on humor in the broader African context. Much of this research is functionalist, asking, for example, as Ebenezer Obadare (2010) does: “What can humor accomplish when faced with unbending state power in a continent ravaged by the most horrendous fatalities? If comics cannot remove sit-tight despots, of what use are they?” (p. 92). Humor certainly can operate as a subversive force, exposing the incongruities both in the prominent structures of power and in its quotidian exercise of dominance, rendering the familiar unfamiliar and thereby challenging the status quo and producing opportunities for critique. So, humor can operate as a weapon of resistance but, as ...

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